U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., was the leading contender to be the speaker of the House Thursday morning, but by the evening, news broke that he was dropping his bid for the position.
Multiple lawmakers and media outlets reported Scalise’s announcement, which he made to a group of reporters at the Capitol late Thursday.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is a key contender as well, but at least for now, neither seems able to nab the 217 needed votes to become speaker of the House.
Meanwhile, Democrats have nominated Democrat Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to be speaker. While Republicans will likely be unwilling to support that choice, they may have to work with Democrats to find a lawmaker palatable enough to both sides.
Until the House selects a speaker, no legislation can go forward.
After Scalise’s nomination, there were hopes of an immediate vote, but he was unable to rally the 217 votes needed to become House Speaker. Republicans met multiple times Thursday with little progress.
The withdrawal comes after Scalise received the support of a majority of his fellow House Republicans for the speaker of the House nomination during a closed-door conference meeting Wednesday.
That vote was conducted by secret ballot, with Scalise narrowly besting Jordan on a vote of 113-99, according to multiple media reports.
Some Republicans have taken issue with having the votes behind closed doors.
“Let’s do this on the House floor instead of behind closed doors. Stop dragging it out,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If Kevin McCarthy had to go 15 rounds then the next Speaker should be able to do the same or more if they have to.”
Jordan, who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, may be next up for the position.
“I will be voting for Jim Jordan to be Speaker of the House on the floor when the vote is called. In conference, Jordan received 99 votes and Scalise received 113,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Fla., wrote on X. “We had a chance to unify the party behind closed doors, but the Swamp and K Street lobbyists prevented that. The American people deserve a real change in leadership, not a continuation of the status quo.”
Some Republicans have said they would support Jordan if Scalise fails.
“Just for clarification: I was one of the earliest endorsers for Jim Jordan for Speaker,” Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, wrote on X. “I whipped hard for his support around the Republican conference and I enthusiastically voted for Jim for speaker yesterday. Jim is a great conservative and I was proud to be one of his strongest supporters. Last night when we voted, Steve Scalise received the majority of votes. Jim Jordan withdrew his name from consideration and pledged to vote for Steve Scalise, as did I. It is now up to Scalise to get 217 votes on the floor of the House.
“If Steve Scalise can’t win the Speakership, I will be aggressively urging Jim to put his name back in the race,” he added before Scalise’s announcement Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who only narrowly won the speakership earlier this year after more than a dozen public votes, said he would not run again after being ousted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, and a handful of other Republicans. Later, though, McCarthy softened his tone, saying he would let the conference decide.
Another key issue for lawmakers to handle is whether one lawmaker will still be able to file a motion to vacate the speaker, an unusual allowance given by McCarthy to secure the needed votes after the series of speakership votes earlier this year. Gaetz used that very allowance to file the motion that led to the ousting of McCarthy and kicked off this battle for the speakership.
Now, lawmakers face a looming partial government shutdown in mid-November as well as pressure to supply funds and munitions to both Ukraine and Israel, which has declared war on the terrorist group Hamas.
Scalise announced in August that he had been diagnosed with blood cancer. The current Speaker Pro Tempore is Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who will determine the times of any speaker votes until a lawmaker secures the speakership.
Gaetz echoed Greene’s call for public votes.
“Let’s do the messy work of governing and leadership selection in front of the people,” he wrote on X. “Just like I voted against McCarthy time after time…in public…making my argument, others should have to reveal their thinking and be appropriately judged by their voters. We elected [and] removed McCarthy with total transparency. Let’s replace him in the same manner.”